After a scoreless first half to forget, Carolina Forest scored three unanswered touchdowns in a span of five minutes to blank St. James 21-0 Friday night.
The Panthers were held to a measly 26 yards offense and were hampered by penalties in the first half but took charge late in the third quarter to improve to 2-1.
"Our kids were resilient, they stuck to the plan," said Carolina Forest coach Drew Hummel. "We were patient with what we did and I think as the game [went] we wore them down. It was almost the first [team] that scores is going to win. But tonight's game is on the defense - outstanding effort by them."
The Panther defenders forced five turnovers and continually turned back St. James scoring threats.
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Meanwhile, the Carolina Forest offense found its stride behind running back Mark Timmons who finished with 94 yards on 24 carries after being held to six yards in the first half.
"The first half went kind of rough - it didn't go as we planned for it to go," said Panthers quarterback Daniel Daly. "We hung in there, played tough and in the second half we came out clicking."
The Sharks had a great opportunity to get on the board first early in the third quarter when Robbie Capps recovered a fumbled snap by Daly. St. James took over at the Carolina Forest 35 but turned the ball over on downs eight plays later at the 16.
Carolina Forest finally broke the scoreless tie on its next possession when Daly hit Jarvez Holmes with a 58-yard touchdown bomb with 2:05 left in the third quarter. Christopher Nwanegwo added the extra point kick to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead entering the fourth quarter.
St. James responded by driving 47 yards in four plays to a first down at the Panthers 18. But quarterback Carl Buddin rolled right and lofted a pass into the end zone on second and 8 at the 16. Panthers defensive back Cory Saunders picked it off in front of Tyler Creech and scampered 102 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, after the third play of the fourth quarter, the Panthers led 14-0.
St. James coach Billy Hurston lamented a missed call on the play.
"They're up two touchdowns and it was the most blatant clip I've ever seen in my life," said Hurston. "The referee had his head down running up the side and 16 [Buddin] just gets two hands in the back right about to make the tackle and [the referee] is not looking. I hate to complain but that's a big miss."
"We played great," said Hurston. "I told our kids I thought [Carolina Forest] would come in a little overconfident thinking they were going to just rush for 3 or 400 yards like we're not a very good football team. In the first half, obviously [we showed] we can play football."